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DeAndra Dycus a Moms Demand Action volunteer and survivor of gun violence sits in a chair on the stage at the Gun Sense Forum in 2019
Survivor Stories

I’ve been on a mission to prevent other mothers from the tragedy that changed our family’s lives

Photo: Everytown for Gun Safety hosts a Presidential Gun Sense Form in Des Monies, IL on Saturday August 10, 2019. Photographer: Christopher Dilts / Everytown

I often say I’m a mother who won’t shut up. And anyone who’s met me or heard me speak knows it’s true. I’ve been on a mission to prevent other mothers from the tragedy that changed our family’s lives on Feb. 1, 2014.

That was the day my son, Dre, was shot. His shooting wasn’t a matter of being in the “wrong place at the wrong time.” He was just a 13-year-old doing what kids do—hanging out with friends at a birthday party when a stray bullet came through the window and struck him in the head. Dre survived that day, but his injuries were so severe that he will never be the same.

As survivors of gun violence know far too well, the shooting is only the beginning of a very long and difficult road. The medical costs are exorbitant—Dre’s nine surgeries, countless days in the hospital and daily rehabilitation have cost millions of dollars. But it’s the emotional toll that is incomprehensible.

People say to me all the time, “You are so lucky he is alive.” Yes, I am blessed my son was not killed. But there is nothing lucky about Dre’s condition. He’s not the same Dre.

Dre was an honor roll student, a star athlete and the kind of kid whose smile would light up a room. The shooting left him a nonverbal quadriplegic who has to relearn how to walk and communicate. Dre has made tremendous progress in just five years time. With the help of his rehabilitation, he is back at school and plans to graduate on time with his class this spring. But as proud as I am, my son will never live the life I once dreamed for him. He won’t walk across the stage to receive his diploma. He won’t go off to college or start a career. I may never see him fall in love, get married, and raise a family of his own.

It’s not just a shooting that is life changing, it’s the adjustments and accommodations we have to make just to get through the day. For me, it’s that I have to choose between having my son home and giving him around the clock care or being able to sustain a job and provide for him. That decision has been agonizing, but those are the moments that show our strength, those are moments that really matter.

I refuse to stay silent about the gun violence that has changed our lives forever. Far too many families and communities are forced to try to rebuild their lives in the wake of senseless gun violence. Just as Dre is a fighter, so am I. And I will never stop fighting to end gun violence.

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